Norway was the first country to end its boycott of Hamas, re-establishing normal economic and political relations with the Palestinian Authority as soon as the new government was formed. Sanctions have helped Hamas consolidate its position, and contributed to a political crisis which has weakened the Palestinians in their struggle with Israel. Hamas has so far gained legitimacy from its war with Israel, but the struggle against Israel has often come second to its objective of an Islamic state in Palestine. Arafat’s repression of Hamas in the 1990s was based largely on his need to consolidate his own position. But Arafat’s actions against Hamas, coupled with his inaction in response to Israeli strikes, simply reinforced the perception amongst Palestinians that Arafat was allied with Israel and that Hamas was the “true” resistance. The obvious way forward is to insist that Palestinian democracy includes not just Hamas, but all those factions who have resisted occupation with violence.
Mark B. Taylor
17 April 2007